When Gang of Youths released a brief 3 song EP in July, “total serene”, frontman/vocalist/songwriter Dave Le’aupepe said that the track “unison” was a glimpse of what the future of GoY was to sound like. Honestly, as a huge fan of this band thanks mostly to the strength of their breakthrough sophomore record “Go Farther in Lightness” (incidentally, check out my Go Farther in Lightness review), I had mixed feelings about this statement.
“Go Farther…” is full of solid emotionally charged rock numbers whereas “unison” is slower and more introspective with a completely different vibe (see my total serene review for more on that). As much as I liked it, I was afraid they were leaving the sounds of “Go Farther” behind moving forward.
Enter their latest single, “the man himself”.
the man himself Review
“the man himself” is the marriage of the old and new GoY which my imagination couldn’t put together for itself. And it’s great.
On the one hand, you have more colors than anything previous to total serene. This includes newest member and Noah and the Whale alum Tom Hobden’s strings and the full, tribal backing vocals of the indigenous people from the island of Mangaia (from where Le’aupepe’s ancestors hail), both of which breathe invigoration into the track.
On the other, you have a sense of urgency in the pacing and an edge which I hadn’t heard since “Go Farther…”. Put them together and you have a song as good as any Gang of Youths have ever released.
As always, the production is completely on point and does an excellent job managing the dynamics, winding the intensity up and down. The bridge in particular is a lovely example of how to catch your breath in a song. The machine-like drums from drummer Donnie Borzestowski are tight and are the second best element to this track and keep it rolling economically throughout.
Far and away, the star of “the man himself” unsurprisingly is Le’aupepe’s vocal.
What IS surprising is that it’s a completely different sound than he’s ever delivered before.
There’s a palpable and beautiful lightness, no pun(s) intended, to the timbre of his voice that caught me off guard as it floats through that first Call-Me-Al-like verse. It never abates even as he effortlessly pushes it on the high notes of the chorus with just a bit of that signature grit on the yells.
Le’aupepe is already one of my favorite vocalists. It’s impressive to hear that he’s clearly still developing and mastering his voice and heartening to imagine how far it can go.
The song is a beautiful lyrical tribute to his late father. One of my favorite lyrics:
There’s a painting of you and it hangs in our kitchen now
‘Cause when my kid’s getting high in a hot-wired symphony
Mm, and I’m looking for sage advice
You’ll be hummin’ away, hummin’ away like everything’s fine
the man himself Review Score: 5/5
I’ve heard that GoY scrapped two versions of what would be their third record. With this purportedly being the first proper single from their long awaited follow-up to “Go Farther…” it has me very excited for what’s to come.
As good as unison was, it didn’t hit for me like this one does, and I maintain that they’ve found a very nice pocket on this one.